Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
By Chris Engberg
Some movies are so inexplicably inept in their message and delivery that they fall into the swamp of a category: “For Some Reason.” Written, Directed, and Produced by Timothy O'Rawe, “
As soon as you put the tape in, music starts playing—even over the FBI warning! This leads into a very bizarre and long computer animated title sequence, which is blindingly cheap even by 1990 standards. The top billed credit goes to Joe Franklin, followed by minutes of no ones, and capped off by a “special guest appearance” by Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling. The extent of his Howard Stern alumni’s “special appearance” will be noted later.
The title sequence and song – which sounds like it was from a gothy Super Nintendo game – actually made me think this could be cool. Seconds into the movie I knew we were in trouble when the first two shots were loooong, lingering shots of the outside of a high school building. It immediately conjured one of my favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 lines: “They're establishing the hell out of that building!” Down in the school’s boiler room, we’re introduced to a big old fat janitor in mid-romance with demon liquor, though he stumbles around more like Chris Farley on heroin. Which I guess is redundant. Anyway, he stuffs some money into a lock box on the wall and then morphine-shuffles over to his cot, which is an odd single achievement in realism within this movie. All high school janitors live in the boiler room. This is just a fact -- from Freddy Krueger to the black janitor in “Hiding Out.”
Two dropout junkie fruitcakes with a vocabulary that consists 50% of the words “fuck” and “shit” have caught wind of this money stash and decide to rob the school at the end of the day, which quickly leads one of the robber clods to shoot the gas huffing janitor while he's tied up because they can't find the money. As a gag, the shooter presses a button on the wall and says something along the lines of “hey, what's this do?” causing the other robber to scream “NOOOOOO!!!” The thieves are then very, very slowly misted with some bullshit chemical the school keeps on hand for some reason and leaves accessible by a single unmarked button.
This mystery mist contaminates the school's water supply, so anyone who comes in contact with it becomes, from what Max tells me, a shitty knockoff of one of Lamberto Bava’s Demons, with blue skin, green blood, and long, sharp teeth. The swim team is the “main” source of misfiring humor, the running quip being that THERE'S TOO MUCH CHLORINE IN THE WATER! Oh my stars, you got us, joke-not-funny-enough-even-for-Prairie-Home-Companion.
The heroes of the movie are two horror nut AV nerds whom we first meet at home, where they are harassed over breakfast by an unexplained step-brother/roommate/bully character. They never really touch on what the deal is with this guy, but he’s written so poorly that you feel okay with the fact that they never touch on him again. Our protagonists both wear Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling t-shirts along with 18 other people in the movie. One of these fools distinguishes himself by affecting his mouth to look like Bill Murray's character in “Caddyshack” without all that, you know, ability to be funny. These two dinguses sit in class reading both Fangoria and Slaughter House, so you'd think that when zombies show up later, they'd shoot them in the fucking head, but, for some reason, they don't. After school they stay late to jerk each other off in the AV room watching extreme horror movies.
Cut to Joe Franklin sitting in his infamous office packed with stacks of sheet music and ephemera. Here, we’re treated to a brief telephone conversation with the principal of
That’s the extent of Jackie’s onscreen appearance, though this flick is otherwise packed with shit tons Martling’s t-shirts, posters, a comedy tape, and stickers (one of which is seen in an air duct – actually kinda funny). My theory is he agreed to appear in the movie for free in exchange for godless amounts of product placement. Joe comes back much later in the movie, much to my surprise, on another call to the school's principal clearly ad libbing his way out of another engagement at the school, only to punctuate it with a theory that there might be something in the water as he's feeling “very peculiar” and insists the water supply be tested. Joe knows his shit, I guess. This also gave me the SLIGHT hope that we might get to see Joe Franklin in zombie makeup. Of course that doesn't happen.
The box’s tagline that reads “Sex! Babes! Rock n Roll!” and yet this film is a never-ending desert without any oasis of nudity. Not even a mirage. Shitty film making 101 is that women without integrity or intelligence are usually much cheaper to come by and they will get naked for a steak dinner. I don’t understand how they came at us with this crap without any sacrificial breasts. We were not appeased. However, we do get some bullshit metal band, the Blood Sucking Ghouls, rehearsing in the school auditorium for the prom – a gig that has the singer's octogenarian girlfriend up in arms in between public makeout sessions and tepid arguments about managing the band. As they repeatedly play their one song, the editor could not be bothered to attempt to sync up any footage to any convincing playing, partly because none of them can play. The drummer looked like a stoner who was asked to perform brain surgery—just throwing his arms around. The AV nerds and the mooks in the band eventually join forces in a fight for survival. Other unmentionables include a pointless subplot of the basketball team only having five dudes on the entire team and the dickhead coach forcing them to practice all night. I guess he should because none of those twerps could make a single basket. They all end up being slaughtered. I think this was the scene where a true maverick of a zombie decides to chainsaw a guy in the crotch, instead of the tearing limb from limb seen everywhere else. The movie ends with the lead singer of The Blood Sucking Ghouls' elderly girlfriend, safely on the roof as the rest of these miscreants run out into the city, which is now all zooed out. Everyone dies and no one cares, except for the tough grandma on the roof shrieking “NOOOOOOOO”, because I sure as hell did not.
Check out the trailer. Amazingly, this thing makes this thing look a million times better than it actually is.
Prolific “auteur” in the genre of this bullshit, David DeCoteau, has an executive producer credit on this slugfest, yet "Ghoul School" makes his standards look Leone-esque by comparison. This may dwell in the scraggily barrel that DeCoteau built, but O’Rawe’s caustic terribleness corrodes the bottom out of it. DeCoteau is also listed as “uncredited” on IMDB, despite being violently credited on the tape itself. Let's just chalk that up to this movie's TMOQ.
Completely unrelated, Nintendo produced a video game entitled "Ghoul School" in 1992, which has become a minor cult hit amongst gamers. In spite of its glithces, it's also way better than the movie.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
So far, all my experiences have led me to believe that a movie with foil box art is an omen of utter shittiness. Whenever I run across a box that glimmers, I am flooded with horrible childhood memories of trolling comic shops during the 90s when every company was producing eighty different cover variants, featuring scads of dumb fucking gimmickry, from foil, to gate fold, to polybag condoms with trading cards, and even holograms in order to up the potential collectability of their title. In the process, the big two did a marvelous job of glutting the market with a high volume of sparkly crap nobody wanted, and pretty much destroyed it in the process. Since then, I have been completely wary of anything that happens to glitter. What some may see as a cute feature, I see as a cheap distraction crafted with the intention of making me think that, “hey, this thing is gleaming like Ra’s anus. It MUST be special!” Don’t believe the hype my friends. If it’s bedazzled, then it has gotta be bullshit, and “Thunder Squad” is another round of ammo in my argument’s chamber.
At first look, this is a potentially promising affair. Antonio Sabato is present, and Umberto Lenzi at the helm should at the very least yield some pretty raw violence. Even the box art itself is pretty great, featuring a misfit cavalry, tarrying forth to stomp some Bolivian ass no doubt. The cover is actually pretty great… but it has that goddamn foil finish, which defies all probable goodness. It is a figurative head on a pike, but being the morbidly curious guy that I am, I live and die by a single question: “just how bad can it really be?” Well, situations like this have lead to a new definition to describe the very bowels of awfulness: It’s FOIL COVER-BAD.
Following a blood thirsty dictator’s hostile takeover of an undisclosed South American country, a clusterfuck of governments conclude that the previous despotic ruler was less of an asshole and decide to enact a plot that will put him back in charge. But when the opposition gets a whiff of the plan, they kidnap the original dictator’s son, thus preventing him from seeking rule once again. The rest of the story is a total flatline that follows a pack of crack mercenaries, aided by a supposedly sexy demolitions expert, on a mission to free the boy. Shortly after rescuing the kid, his father is assassinated and our mercenaries end up stranded in the South American wilds with the kid and a pissed off army hot on their trail. One of the good guys pulls a heel turn and decides he’s not going to die just for some kid, even though he had previously agreed to go into the jungles to fight guerillas for the same kid only a few days ago. Whatever, pal. The kid eventually leads them to an allied border, but not without a few casualties, and that’s about it. Overall, the movie is a total snooze, the characters are barely there, and the violence itself is unspectacular for a Lenzi effort. The film’s ending feels like the conclusion of an episode of the A-team. For an episodic television show that’s going to be back next week, it would have been fine, but for a film it feels totally abrupt.
The film’s fatal soft spot truly is the lack of character development. We’re presented with types we’re supposed to accept, but we never learn much about their background, their bond, or who they are as people, which makes it virtually impossible to give a shit about anything they do. A huge component in making violence impactful is the characters involved in the explosions. Without any idea of who these people are, I just can’t be bothered to care. No one here is even remotely likable. The demolition chick is a bitch, the mercenaries are one step away from becoming creepy rapists, and THESE are the guys with the integrity. Tack on an annoying kid and I start to run real low on give-a-shits.
Though I contemplated turning the film off at several points, there was one scene early on that compelled me to keep watching. Following news of the boy’s kidnapping, the government gathers three of the world’s best psychics. They’re brought into a room, hooked up to an electronic scanning device, and each gives a reading which pieces together the exact coordinates of the boy’s location. This was a rather convoluted plot device to introduce, so I was curious as to whether or not the psychics would return at some point in the story. They never do, which left me completely baffled and disappointed at the end of the film as to why they even bothered to add a supernatural element to this story. Recommended only for those hell bent on knowing the work of Lenzi intimately. “Thunder Squad” is also interesting for its striking similarities to not only the last “Rambo” film, but “The Expendables” as well. There are some parallels between these films that left me wondering if this was one of Stallone’s influences. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.
Friday, July 1, 2011
"Pia Zadora was a z-list actress with a zillionaire, aging husband. In one of her first movie roles (Butterfly), she won a Golden Globe for "best newcomer" award despite a shitty appearance in a film no one saw. Her husband [had] wined and dined the voters on his yacht. For years the award was cited as evidence that the Golden Globes had no credibility. Over time, she kind of became a running joke -- frequent punchline on
, etc. She used the notoriety to her advantage, taking on commercials that played on her ditzy/no-talent image. Later in life she was cast in one or two John Waters movies in small parts. She was sort of the Paris Hilton/Kardashian of her era in that she was famous for being famous for being famous for sucking. However, because she took the abuse with considerable grace (keep in mind this was before blogs and Twitter) she actually fashioned something close to a favorable public reputation despite no one actually remembering any of her work." Carson